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Easter

Atheists cite resurgence as they gather on Easter weekend

“Bush’s polarizing presidency showed people how bad things could turn “if religion was in charge,” he said. The Internet showed atheists that they weren’t alone, as they sought out and encouraged one another.”

Very true for me; when Bush was elected to a second term, that is when I decided to come out of the closet. I’m fine with an individuals religious beliefs, however when Bush won the presidency with the help of the religious right and their agenda, that is when I realized it was time to stand up and to fight back.

Anytime religion gets involved in government, there are problems. Our founding fathers, particularly Thomas Jefferson, understood the importance of the separation of church and state. Here we are in 2010 and some people still don’t get it. ugggg.

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On a happier note. Here is my favorite Easter photo:

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10 thoughts on “Easter

  1. Nicholas says:

    Just a question: does Joseph Stalin demonstrate how bad things can get when atheism is in charge?

    Happy Easter! I LOVE the bunny photo…haha…I also love some of Eric’s Quotes of the Day recently. 🙂

    Love,
    Nick

    Reply
  2. Cindy says:

    I’ll assume you are referring to Hitler, Stalin and Mao, since just about all atheists have heard this argument before. Just for the record, Hitler was not an atheist. Regardless, the key difference between Atheist controlling government and theist controlling government is that atheist do not govern according to atheism. Atheism is simply the lack of belief in god. There is nothing about atheism that would lead to mass murder or genocide. Compare this to say the Inquisition and you see the problem.

    Government should be run based on facts, while leaving spiritual beliefs to the church. In fact, being an atheist would actually be a benefit in government, since judgment is not clouded by supernatural ideas and prejudices. But to admit to atheism and running for public office would be political suicide in the US. We have a long way to go…

    Glad you enjoy Eric’s quotes. I could never make that stuff up!

    Happy Easter Nick (sincerely:-)

    Reply
  3. Nicholas says:

    Well, I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say that atheism is “simply” the lack of belief in a god. When one doesn’t have a religious ethics and a religious metaphysics to inform one’s actions, one faces the temptation to replace religion with something else so that existence can make sense….it could be more or less moral, altruistic or Machiavellian or fascist, depending on the person. There’s no doubt in my mind that Stalin’s fascism was conditioned by his atheism — that his idea that there was no power above and beyond his own was enabled by a convenient lack of belief in God. To take another example, Benedict has argued that the free-market capitalist mindset which caused the economic crisis was the fault of atheist materialism which, failing to posit the existence of transcendent moral values, created a false and destructive idol out of profit.

    I’m not saying all atheists are immoral. It just depends on the person. We could say the same thing about religious people; some of them are moral and use religion to better themselves, while others are immoral and twist it to their own ends. Looking back at history, I think that theism has a better track record than atheism. In the twentieth century alone, complaints about George Bush — whose religious faith was only one factor in determining his policies — can’t really compete with Nazism, Stalinism, Maoism, the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, the Rape of Nanking, the Killing Fields of Pol Pot, the atomic arms race, the scourges of Idi Amin, civil war in Rwanda, and the ethnic cleansing in Darfur, none of which have anything to do with religion.

    If you want to go back a few centuries to the Inquisition, we should be sure to understand it. The Vatican’s Inquisition was the least brutal system of justice in existence at that time, when the only vocabulary which came close to our modern understanding of human rights was a religious one. The Inquisition was mainly intellectual in focus and did not, in principle, apply the death penalty or torture, which were everyday realities of every secular court of the time. In fact, people hauled off to face charges in the secular world would often curse in court, because this would get them sent to the religious tribunal which they knew would be far gentler and more merciful! It was only when Torquemada took over the Inquisition that it became so brutal — though this was at the urging of the King and Queen of Spain, who wanted to use the Inquisition for political purposes, and not at the urging of the Popes, some of whom, like Sixtus IV, went as far as to condemn it.

    Happy Easter! 🙂
    Love,
    Nick

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  4. Cindy says:

    “When one doesn’t have a religious ethics and a religious metaphysics to inform one’s actions, one faces the temptation to replace religion with something else so that existence can make sense…”

    This is absolutely not true, but it is a common misconception among theists, since in order to be religious to begin with, you have to have that need in order to have faith in a god. Most atheist find much more sense in science and the pure joy of living. They follow the golden rule because it’s the right thing to do.

    While it is true that there are good and bad people in every group, statistically, atheist are more moral than theist. We talked about this before, divorce rates, violent crime, bigotry are all higher in theist, while IQ’s are lower in believers. Of course your IQ is much higher than mine, but statistically speaking, this is true.

    Religion has played a part in many historic atrocities, but fighting for no god? Ah, no.

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  5. Nicholas says:

    haha….I don’t know about my IQ. I’ve done some pretty dumb things in my day. With age comes wisdom, right? 😉

    I do think that my remark holds true. Like I said, one faces the *temptation* to replace religion — I don’t mean that everyone actually replaces it with a false ideology. At the same time, what does it say about a person if (s)he only values “science” and “the joy of living”? These can be ideologies, too, with which one replaces a religious sensibility. Science has given us some of the great atrocities of the 20th century. As Terry Eagleton once remarked, “Swap you atomic warfare for the Inquisition.” And as for joy of living, people can do a lot of cruel and callous things out of the joy of living.

    When you get down to it, religion and atheism can offer a lot of the same things: a dire sense that decisions made in this life matter greatly (in the one case, because what we do in this life gets us into Paradise; in the other case, because this is the only life we have); a wicked sense of entitlement and pride (in the one case, because we imagine God to be on our side; in the other case, because there is no God watching over us, so might makes right); an instinct for the Golden Rule (in the one case, because it’s what the Prophets taught; in the other case, because it’s common sense). What matters in all this is what sort of religious mindset one has, and what sort of atheist mindset one has.

    I would suggest, however, that religion offers two things that atheism does not. The first is a sense of hope which can only come out of claims of transcendence. Try telling the Haitian people that it’s best to abandon religion in favor of “science and the joy of living,” and they’ll be justified in spitting in your face. People in dire situations recognize that if there is no God to right the wrongs of history, then human existence is dramatically unfair, and I frankly don’t see what’s in place to prevent all-out class warfare and a great drama of human resentment. Or, to take another example, since you bring up crime:

    Your claim that atheists are “more moral” than theists is silly. First of all, crime is not the only measure of amorality. I know a lot of people who have never been locked up for anything but are loathsome people: this is equally true of prudish conservative Christians as for vulgar materialist atheists. Secondly, and more importantly, religion does not claim to be a hotel for saints, but a hospital for sinners. Given that a person is going to sin, the question is, what metaphysical outlook will help her to overcome that sin? Take prison populations. Felons might self-report Christianity as their religion, but talk to prison chaplains and you’ll know that the vast majority of the prison population is not religious. Still, look at those inmates who do practice religion; it has a great effect on their lives. According to studies in Florida, recidivism rates in pioneering faith-based prisons are as much as 60% lower than in non-faith-based prisons. Or look at cases of people on death row who have done terrible, horrible things yet manage to face death with a sense of atonement, forgiveness, and peace. It’s not an advanced grasp of evolutionary biology or membership in the Democratic party which gives people a sense that in the midst of the deep darkness of their wretched existence, a light of love shines forth unextinguishable; no, it’s personal faith in someone like Jesus Christ and a belief in the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the body which give people the only sense of redemption which is possible to them.

    The second thing that religion offers is an unshakable belief in the existence of truth. You write: “Atheists follow the golden rule because it’s the right thing to do.” But what does that even mean? The right thing, according to whom? Without a God to whom we are all accountable, ethics is easily relativized. Reduce humanity to an evolutionary oddity and, for your beliefs to be consistent, morality can only be practical. If you can figure out a way to commit adultery or steal from your neighbor in such a way that it will benefit the survival of the fittest, then what’s stopping you from doing so? I’m not saying that atheists cannot believe in objective moral truths; but I would say that if you believe in objective moral truth, then you believe in something like what I am calling God (for starters). “Following the golden rule because it’s the right thing to do” only makes sense within a religious framework. Outside of a religious framework, it’s nothing but wishful thinking.

    Lastly, I don’t understand your final line. Religion has played a small part in some historic atrocities. Yes. “But fighting for no god, no?” That’s silly! People have plenty of things to fight for when they take God out of the picture: money, land, pride….

    Love,
    Nick

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  6. Cindy says:

    Oh Nick there is so much I disagree with here, but I honestly don’t have time to comment on all of your points. Maybe on the weekend…

    But I did want to clarify that people fight over their religious belief systems, but if you don’t have a religion, then that is one less thing to fight about. Of course there are plenty of other things to fight over like money, land, pride. But lets face it, religion has always been something people fight over throughout history. Even today. Atheist might start wars for power, money, or a number of other things, but they don’t start wars over gods. That is what I meant.

    You are very good at rationalizing Nick. It is amazing to me how people can come up with all of this religious stuff without a shred of evidence. Science might not have all the answers, but at least there is evidence that can be seen and tested.

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  7. Nicholas says:

    So just a historical question: what were the last five wars you can think of which were started over gods?

    And we’ve talked about this a million times, but: religion doesn’t speak to things which can be tested with evidence. I sometimes think that your whole idea of religion is creationism and geocentrism. Good religion is compatible with good science. But whether there is an ultimate meaning to our lives, or a God who transcends physics; how to grow in love; the role of worship in communities; the ethics of war, abortion, the death penalty, immigration reform, capitalism….these are just a handful of questions that science cannot answer (because they have nothing to do with the laws of physics, or with evidence) and which religion is concerned with.

    Love,
    Nick

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  8. Cindy says:

    Well, there where those planes that were flown into buildings recently. You might argue that they had other motives, but the people who flew the planes actually thought they were getting a free ticket to Allah. Then there’s the religious folks on the other side who voted for George Bush just because he is a christian. Would we be in the two wars we are in now without religion? And then there are the wars within the wars between Shia and the Kurds.

    It’s all about religion in many of the middle eastern countries where their government is based on religion, as opposed to ours that is suppose to keep religion and government separate.

    What about the problems between Palestine and Israel, Lebanon and Israel the Catholics and protestants in Ireland. The Holocaust in WWII, although this was not really a religious war, why were Jews killed? Many if not all of the ancient wars were based on religion, the Crusades and the Inquisition most notably.

    Good religion is fine with me, but there is too much bad religion out there. Since Atheist have no gods or religion, all the trouble caused by religion is even more frustrating, because to us, it’s based on absolutely nothing. It’s like people fighting over nothing or voting for someone for no good reason. I’m sure this is hard for you to imagine, since you are a believer.

    I know that even if there is no god, there is still good that comes from religion, but when I look at the tiny bit of history that is humanity, I see much more harm than good that has come from religion.

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  9. Nicholas says:

    I agree with you, very strongly, that there is a big difference between good and bad religion. I don’t argue for religion in any form — only for good religion purified of its harmful elements. So I’ll grant that Islam is a problem in the Middle East; you’re right about that. But it’s the fanatical interpretation of Islam that’s problematic. It also doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s been popular because of the poverty created in those regions by irresponsible autocracies and by the workings of global capitalism. I read a NYT article once which did a masterful job of exposing the motivations of suicide bombers recruited in Iraq to fight American forces; the majority weren’t particularly religious and didn’t do it for the “free ticket to Allah,” but because al-Qaeda in Iraq promised to take care of their wretchedly poor families if they’d martyr themselves for the cause.

    On a purely practical level, regardless of whether religious claims are true or false, the question arises: given that people will always have a religious hunger, and given that atheism only gets religious people riled up, isn’t it better to argue for good religion than for the abolition of all religion everywhere? I think that if you ask any expert on the Middle East, they’ll say that the hope for peace lies in religious moderates who can dialogue with religious civilians who might otherwise be tempted towards fanaticism, rather than in “enlightened” Western atheist materialism, which is completely foreign, and inimical, to the religious spirit of the Middle East.

    But to return to your answer to my question: the evangelicals who voted for Bush are Republicans masquerading as Christians. They didn’t vote for Bush because he was a Christian; otherwise they’d have voted for the liberal-leaning pastor Huckabee. They voted for him because he was a Republican masquerading as a Christian. “Would we be in two wars without religion?” Why not? The Iraq War was orchestrated by other people behind Bush who couldn’t care less about religion. Look at Cheney.

    I think the rest of your examples are pretty weak. Ask anyone who knows anything about the Sunni/Shi’ite/Kurdish conflicts, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Lebanese-Israeli conflict, and the Irish conflict, and they’ll tell you it’s about states and ethnicities, not religion. These groups just so happen to divide down religious lines. Take the Ireland thing — it’s not about whether you’re Catholic or Protestant, but about whether you’re an Irish nationalist (and these happen to be Catholic) or a British loyalist (and these happen to be Protestant). Saying the Irish conflict is about religion is like saying the American Civil War was about people with southern accents hating people with New England accents.

    The Holocaust is your worst example yet. Hitler was an atheist dictator (baptized Catholic, but that was the end of his involvement with religion) who killed whomever he liked — including Jews, Catholics, gypsies, and the handicapped. Would you have the gall to say that handicapped people were responsible for the Holocaust? You can’t say that religion was responsible for the Holocaust, either. (Although if you look at just about any example of people who kept hope alive in the Holocaust, I can guarantee you that their religion played a part.)

    Finally, the Crusades. Ah, the Crusades. The Moors were themselves like modern Hitlers, sweeping across half the settled world in an attempt to rule the entire Eurasian continent. When they started pressing into Europe, the European nations fought back, just like the Allies did during WWII. Because both peoples were religious, religious arguments were used, especially on the Christian side (“we have a moral obligation to defend our land”), but it’s hardly as though the Crusades were fought over whether God is Trinitarian or whether Mohammed is God’s greatest prophet or what have you.

    Love,
    Nick

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  10. Cindy says:

    You make some good arguments Nick and you wear your old aunt down. But I must also say that I’ve never met anyone who denies the role of religion in wars with such vigor. I understand that wars can – and usually do – have multiple and complex causes, but there is no doubt that religion inflames the situation. As in Ireland, I also understand that the main issue is between the Irish nationalist and the British. But there is also no doubt that religion plays a part in the conflict.

    There is no proof that Hitler was an atheist. Also, I didn’t say that the Jews were responsible for the Holocaust. They were killed simply for being Jewish. Nothing against Jews, but would they have been killed if there was no religion in the world?

    In the words of John Lennon, “Imagine no religion, I wonder if you can?” Yes I can and it looks pretty darn good to me.

    Just Google Religious Wars and you’ll get plenty of references.

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